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Zakia Patel YMCA Youth Space

Outstanding Youth Worker

Zakia has created a thriving Youth Space (opened 28 Feb), with more than 900 visits to date (only open on two days per week), from a diverse mix of young people. She has also established an effective Case Management Practice.

Zakia set out to develop a culture that supports safety, self-expression, inclusion, accountability, and opportunity. This approach facilitates youth work practice that is ethical, participatory and strengths-based.

Key elements and examples of this approach include:

  • “Values” and “Expectations” not rules has influenced the behaviour of participants. They do their own dishes, clean-up, and hold each other accountable.
  • Creating opportunities to engage with the Space according to their own preferences. To maximise engagement, Zakia created a space where participants can do lots of things, but are not required to do any one thing. This allows participants to shape their own experience and build relationships with youth workers at their own pace.
  • Creating opportunities for young people to shine. The “Official” opening of the Space (attended by a diverse range of stakeholders) allowed young people to demonstrate their strengths and feel valued in a different setting. Young people fulfilled important roles on the night, including meeting dignitaries, facilitating an art project, and being the MC. These roles challenged the young people, but Zakia made sure they were supported.

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